Phosphorus - Lit Match


Phosphorus is an element whose chemical symbol is P. It has an atomic number of 15 in the Periodic Table. It was discovered in 1669 by Hennig Brand, a German chemist. One of the fascinating things about phosphorus is that it glows in the dark, and indeed its name is Greek for “light bearer.” Phosphorus isn’t just found on the heads of matches, it is also the second most abundant mineral in the human body.

Forms of Phosphorus

The most common form of phosphorus is as yellow crystals that smell like a burning match. It burns at room temperature and melts at 111 degrees Fahrenheit (approximately 44.4 degrees Celsius). Because of this, phosphorus is usually stored under water. It’s toxic when out of water and will cause severe burns if handled without proper skin protection.

Red phosphorus, which is made by heating yellow phosphorus, is a brownish red powder that’s not poisonous. Yet another form of phosphorus has a violet color. The violet form of phosphorus refers to the amorphous or red phosphorus, which can appear violet under certain conditions. It is one of the several allotropes, or forms, of elemental phosphorus, alongside white phosphorus and black phosphorus. Violet phosphorus is metastable and can convert to other forms under certain conditions.

Phosphorus vs Phosphate

The body requires phosphorus, which is an essential mineral, rather than phosphate. Phosphorus plays a crucial role in various physiological functions and is a vital component of many bio-molecules. The term “phosphate” is often used to describe compounds containing phosphorus, typically in the form of phosphate ions (PO4^3-), which are derived from phosphoric acid (H3PO4).

Fósforo en el cuerpo

The body needs phosphorus as an essential mineral, and phosphate ions derived from phosphorus play vital roles in various physiological processes. Phosphorus is found in every cell in the body and so plays a crucial role in nearly every bodily function.

Here is a summary of the key roles of phosphorus in the body:

Phosphorus for Bone and Teeth Formation

Phosphorus supports growth of the skeleton and teeth. Phosphorus is a major component of hydroxyapatite, a mineral that makes up the structural matrix of bones and teeth. It provides strength and rigidity to the skeletal system.

Phosphorus for Energy Metabolism

Phosphorus is an absolutely vital component in the method in which chemical energy is transported within cells, as it is one of the elements which make up a molecule called adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP is the primary molecule involved in energy transfer within cells. It is essential for cellular processes that require energy. ATP is recycled so it is only necessary to ensure the body has enough phosphorus in total, rather than needing constant top-ups, but it is never the less still vital that the body is provided with enough to build up adequate levels.

Phosphorus in the form of phospholipids help break up fats and fatty acids, helping the body use fats, protein and carbohydrates as sources of energy.

Phosphorus for Reproduction

Phosphorus is crucial in reproduction as it is part of the nucleoproteins that regulate cell division and the passing down of traits from parents to children.

Phosphorus for B Vitamin Absorption

The B-complex vitamins riboflavin and niacin can’t be digested without phosphorus, so it is essential in the body as B Vitamins are themselves vital for health.

Phosphorus to Support Vital Organs

Phosphorus supports muscle contractions, which include the necessary contractions of the heart muscle. Phosphorus is also vital for the health of nerves and kidneys.

Phosphorus for DNA and RNA

Phosphorus is a fundamental component of nucleic acids, including DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) and RNA (ribonucleic acid). These molecules carry genetic information and play a crucial role in protein synthesis.

Phosphorus for Cell Membrane Structure

Phospholipids, which are molecules containing phosphorus, are major components of cell membranes. They contribute to the structure and integrity of cell membranes and are important in cell maintenance and repair. Phosphorus also helps chemicals pass in and out of cells and helps the body secrete hormones.

Phosphorus as a Body Buffer System

Phosphorus makes sure that the body is neither too acidic nor too alkaline. Phosphates in the form of hydrogen phosphate (HPO4^2-) and dihydrogen phosphate (H2PO4^-) act as important components of the body’s buffering system, helping to maintain the pH balance in bodily fluids.

Phosphorus Works with Calcium

The partner of phosphorus in the body is calcium and the body works to make sure that there’s a balance between the two minerals in the bones. The ideal ratio of calcium to phosphorus is two and half parts calcium to one part phosphorus, though there’s more phosphorus in the organs and other soft tissues. Any imbalance is corrected by excess mineral being excreted from the body.

Phosphorus Supplements

Supplemental phosphorus can be used to help repair broken bones and to help reduce the loss of calcium in people with broken bones. It has also shown some efficacy in treating osteoporosis, a disease where the bones become less dense, sometimes leading to fractures.

Phosphorus Deficiency

Phosphorus deficiency can lead to such conditions as; anorexia, obesity, mental and physical exhaustion, irregular breathing and disorders of the nervous system. It can also lead to bone loss, arthritis, rickets and tooth decay.

Too Much Phosphorus

While phosphorus is essential for health, an imbalance in phosphorus levels can occur in certain medical conditions, such as kidney disorders.

Excessive intake of phosphorus, often in the form of phosphoric acid found in some sodas and processed foods, may have health implications, especially when not balanced with sufficient calcium intake.

Food Sources of Phosphorus

For people eating a Western diet, phosphorus deficiency is quite rare as it is found in so many types of food. Dietary sources of phosphorus include; dairy products, red meat, fish, poultry, whole grains, seeds, nuts and legumes. The body absorbs phosphorus from the digestive tract, and its levels are regulated by hormonal mechanisms, particularly parathyroid hormone and vitamin D.

Phosphorus Absorption

Although the body has a hard time absorbing calcium, phosphorus is readily absorbed into the blood from the intestine. A person will absorb about 70% of the phosphorus found in their food. The overwhelming majority of phosphorus is then stored in the bones and the teeth along with calcium.

The absorption of phosphorus not only depends on calcium but on vitamin D, one of the few vitamins that a human being can manufacture. However, too much aluminium, iron and magnesium in the system can interfere with the absorption of phosphorus.

People who take a great many antacids should also be aware of their phosphorus levels. The aluminium in these antacids might bind with the phosphorus and make it difficult to absorb. Refined sugar also disturbs the balance between calcium and phosphorus, as can diets high in fat.

Phosphorus Dosage

Dietary experts recommend that both men and women get about 800 mg of phosphorus every day. If a woman is pregnant, she should increase her intake of phosphorus to about 1,200 mg per day.

Interestingly, there seems to be no toxicity level for phosphorus supplements, despite how dangerous yellow phosphorus is to handle and eat.

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Phosphorus Notes / Side Effects

Phosphorus is an essential mineral that plays a crucial role in various bodily functions, including bone health, energy metabolism, and DNA synthesis. However, consuming excessive amounts of phosphorus, particularly in the form of phosphorus supplements or phosphate-containing additives in processed foods, may lead to potential side effects.

Some possible side effects of high phosphorus intake include:

Kidney Issues: Excess phosphorus can put strain on the kidneys, especially in individuals with kidney disease or impaired kidney function. Over time, high phosphorus levels may contribute to the progression of kidney disease and increase the risk of complications such as mineral and bone disorders.

Mineral Imbalance: High phosphorus levels can disrupt the balance of minerals in the body, particularly calcium. Excess phosphorus may interfere with calcium absorption, leading to low calcium levels in the blood (hypocalcemia). This imbalance can weaken bones, increase the risk of fractures, and contribute to conditions like osteoporosis.

Cardiovascular Complications: Elevated phosphorus levels have been associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, including coronary artery calcification, arterial stiffness, and heart-related events. High phosphorus levels may promote vascular calcification and contribute to the development of atherosclerosis.

Soft Tissue Calcification: Excess phosphorus can accumulate in soft tissues throughout the body, leading to calcification. Soft tissue calcification may affect various organs and structures, including blood vessels, heart valves, skin, and eyes, potentially impairing their function over time.

Bone Health Issues: While phosphorus is essential for bone formation and maintenance, excessively high phosphorus levels relative to calcium may negatively impact bone health. An imbalance between phosphorus and calcium levels can weaken bones, increase the risk of fractures, and contribute to skeletal disorders like osteoporosis.

Other Effects: In addition to the above, high phosphorus intake may contribute to other health issues, including muscle cramps, itchy skin, and metabolic disturbances. Individuals with certain medical conditions, such as chronic kidney disease, diabetes, or hyperparathyroidism, may be particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of excess phosphorus.

It’s essential to maintain a balanced intake of phosphorus from dietary sources and consult with a healthcare professional, especially if you have specific health concerns or medical conditions that may affect phosphorus metabolism. Dietary phosphorus recommendations vary depending on individual factors, and moderation is key to promoting overall health and well-being.

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